Shooting Fujisan seems to be one of the favourite activities for retired people. Famous shooting locations are getting more and more crowded with old people. I want to believe that everyone who loves Fujisan is a good person. But sometimes it is not true. I often pick up trash thrown away by some of such amateur photographers. They don’t throw away trash at popular places where their deeds are witnessed by other people. They reveal their true personality when they’re seen by no one. That’s what mindless jerks does. Some take pictures from the back of the spots with wide angle lenses and try to chase off everyone comes into the frame. I’ve heard someone actually did such even to people who came earlier to the spot than him, saying “I always shoot Fuji from this position. You guys must go away.” But his ‘place’ was owned by someone else. Some get furious when someone briefly lights his camera with a headlight or penlight. If he really doesn’t want any artificial light to enter his camera, I think he should shoot in back-countries. I’m sick of all of this. I wanted to stay away from them. I wanted to be all alone in nature.
The Japanese serows are rare animals. It is quite rare to see them even for a person like me who often lurks in mountains. They went nearly extinct in the 50′s. The Japanese government designated them as a “Special National Monument” and prohibited the hunting of the serow. Since then, the number of the serows increased. If you’re lucky, you might meet them in the country like I did.
Actually, it was the second time for me to meet them. The first time was the day before the day I took this shot. I climbed Mount Akaishidake (3,120m/10,240ft). It’s already November.Lodges in the mountain are already closed. So you need to carry your own sleeping bag and tent (or something similar) to get to the top of Mt. Akaishidake in this season. It wasn’t easy mountaineering for me as the summit was frozen and rather slippery but the snow wasn’t thick enough for crampons.
The South Alps (of Japan) is sort of a sacred area for landscape photographers specialized in Mount Fuji. Fuji does look really awesome when seen from other high mountains. Needless to say that the most important sacred place is Mt. Fuji itself for us. But we can’t shoot Fuji when we are on the top of Fuji, you know?
According to my brief research on the South Alps, the Mount Houou is the best destination for me, because it isn’t too hard to get to the top even if you aren’t very experienced in climbing but the view of Fuji from this mountain is really superb. I concluded this mountain should be my first target in the South Alps area. There are some course options. The easiest route runs from Yashajin-Touge but I chose the Dondokozawa (ドンドコ沢) route, which features a couple of waterfalls, for ascending, and the Chudou (中道) route for descending. As I forgot to record a GPS log, the line showing the route in the map is not very accurate.
For landscape photographers, Saiko (Lake Sai) is the least popular lake among the Fujigoko (Fuji Five Lakes). The number of photos of Mt. Fuji taken from this lake is much less than the other four Fujigoko lakes. The main reason why this place isn’t very popular is that Mt. Ashiwada lies between the lake and Mt. Fuji and thus we can only see the top of Fuji from Saiko. By the way, “-ko” indicates lake so Lake Saiko is a bit redundant translation but I think it is more understandable for those who are not familiar with Japanese. There is one great location for shooting mount Fuji on the lakeshore of Saiko, which is located at the western bay of Lake Sai.
I have trouble translating this article. If I could, I wanted to translate the title of the article as “What are the Genfukeis of Japan?” A genfukei seems to be a concept only exists in Japan. Or at least, It doesn’t exist as an English word. I couldn’t find any words that directly correspond to the word.
Genfukeis (原風景) are landscapes that remain in one’s memory most vividly when he/she gets old. It depends on each individual. But when we use the phrase “a genfukei of Japan (Nippon no Genfukei),” it indicates landscapes that invoke the emotions of nostalgia for the majority of the Japanese.
After I posted a blog entry about Mt. Fuji and cosmos flowers, I received an unexpected reaction from a Slovakian guy. He argued that cosmos bipinnatus originated in Mexico and introduced to Japan in the Meiji era. They explosively proliferated in Japan, and now represent the autumn season. He said the photos are beautiful but it isn’t good in terms of environmental protection. Honestly speaking, I didn’t know that cosmos flowers were introduced to Japan in the 19th century. Kanji characters given to cosmos flowers is 秋桜. 秋 indicated autumn and 桜 indicates cherry blossoms. I vaguely thought that it didn’t originate in Japan but it was probably imported to Japan much before than that.
According to the weather report, it is going to be fine and Fuji will probably be visible. I hate shooting in a crowded place in weekends. It is a Tuesday. I’ll probably enjoy shooting Fuji without being bothered by anyone.
I somehow wanted to go to Taikanzan, a popular vantage point to admire Fuji in Hakone. This place was haunted by legendary Japanese painter Taikan Yokoyama as he loved drawing Mt. Fuji from here. This mountain was originally called Daikanzan but was changed into Taikanzan in memory of the great painter after he died. That’s the story written in guidebooks. I’ve never found any authentic sources to prove the story though.
“Evening primroses look very well in the landscape of Fuji,” said Osamu Dazai in his popular novel Fugaku Hyakkei (100 views of Mt. Fuji). As I told in my previous post about the novel, Dazai didn’t actually see Fuji and evening primroses together in the same landscape. Some thoughtful people interpret this sentence as meaning that Dazai likened Fuji to the Japanese society and himself to evening primroses. When Dazai wrote this novel, Japan was governed by the military juggernaut. He was not conscripted into the army as he was physically as well as mentally fragile. I can imagine how he felt towards the society. It was a dark age in the history of Japan. There was no freedom. The military dictatorship severely controlled individuals. I think every creators and artists would hate such a government. Evening primroses don’t look spectacular at all. I thought they were just blooming weeds till recently. Honestly, speaking there are other flowers that look much better in the landscapes of Mt. Fuji. To name a few, cherry blossoms and cosmos flowers come to my mind.
I’ve always wanted to shoot Fuji from the top of Mt. Kokushigatake. I tried to climb the mountain last November, but the gate of the forest road leading to the mountain was closed earlier than usual due to heavy snow. I was very busy with my exhibition in summer. I waited for ten months, and eventually I got an opportunity to try again.
I left home at midnight heading to Oodarumi Touge (大弛峠), which is located on the northern border of Yamanashi prefecture. My house is located in the southern part of Yamanashi prefecture. According to Google Map, it takes three hours, much longer than going to Gotenba or Hakone. Two deers and one fox jumped in front of my car on my way there. Since I expected some animals would do it so I could safely avoid them. Yamanashi prefecture is one of the least populated prefectures in Japan. If you see a sign board making alert of animals, drive slowly so that you can safely avoid them.
When you gain some experience in photography, you realise the importance of lighting. When it comes to still life and portrait photography, you can control lighting using gear such a strobe light. As far as landscape photography is concerned, you cannot basically lighten the subject. I said ‘basically’ because you can use light painting technique, for example, to lighten subjects in the foreground when shooting night photography. You can also use an electric flash to lighten plants (such as maple trees and sakura trees) in the foreground when taking backlit shots . But you can’t light up huge subjects such as Mount Fuji. For that reason, it is vitally important for landscapes to be at the right place at the right time, that is, visit a place where you can make a beautiful composition when nature gives best light. Even when we try to do so, we are at the wrong place at the wrong time at times as nature is always beyond our expectation.
I visited ISLAND GALLERY to check out a photo exhibition by Chotoku Tanaka. Chotoku is a famous Leica user in Japan and the exhibition featured photographs taken in 1973 using his 1932 Leica D2. He used Nikon 50mm f/2.0 and SIGMA minitel 200mm to take the photos.